@Kehaulani Indeed! I would be playing on that Christmas program next year. It is probably most well known for its choirs, but the orchestras and bands tour around the world as well and are amazing. I am quite excited to go there!
I don't mean this in an uncharitable way at all, but I think you must have had a bad experience but I don't think it's universal. I've worked with all kinds of musicians and of all different kinds of backgrounds, some with little formal education to those with PhDs and I have never known one that didn't get something out of their education.
Now, some just got an opportunity to play in some great ensembles and make some valuable relationships, while there where others who really increased their knowledge. It was really personal, depending on their level when they started school and what their goals were.
One day during a composition lesson, I looked out the window and across the street at the main entrance to the building and said to my professor, "That's sad. There should be a sign over the entrance that says, "Caveat Emptor". He looked at me, took a pregnant pause, and said, "You have to create your own vacancy".
Just the opposite actually - I have been very fortunate. But like you, I am no kid. I see that the path that my grandfather faced only the challenges of working hard and being skilled enough along, which for me evolved over time into ever greater, though not insurmountable with the respect of peers, political/practical hurdles, is rapidly becoming a wall of unthinking check-box filtering. Its not like it was just ten years ago - in any field from engineering to fast-food. Everyone pre-screens today - even the educational side of the arts. The performance branches of the arts are the last bastion of true meritocracy perhaps , but sooner or later the wave breaks and covers all.
Also please do not interpret this as devaluing education in any way - professional or personal. I am, at the end of the day, a teacher and historian - I do appreciate the personal value of learning